Ricky Williams doesn’t let change slow him down
By Kimberley Hoidal
Arizona Athletics Media Relations
A person’s character isn’t measured during the good times, but rather when faced with adversity. Senior wide receiver Ricky Williams has faced more than his share, but that hasn’t slowed him down.
During his senior year at Verbum Dei High School in Los Angeles, Williams suffered a torn ACL, but that didn’t keep him off the field. With the hopes of a state championship on his mind, Williams played the last five games of the season in pain.
“It was one of the best teams I played on in high school, and I thought we had a really good chance of making a run in the playoffs. Unfortunately, we didn’t because of some injury bugs,” Williams said. “We ended up losing in the second round of the playoffs.”
During the fall of 1999, he caught the attention of several schools, but the knee injury kept many at a distance. Arizona was the lone school that remained committed ?- so committed that Williams was the only wide receiver in the 2000 recruiting class.
Williams said that was the main reason he chose to attend Arizona. Former head coach Dick Tomey was willing to give him a scholarship despite his injury. “I thought that if he can be committed to me,” he explained, “then I can be committed to him. That was one of the reasons I came here.”
While the thought of playing Pac-10 football was exciting, there was no way to prepare for the turmoil that lay ahead.
In the five years that Williams has been a Wildcat wide out, he has gone through four different head coaches and even more position coaches. It has definitely tested his mettle.
“If I had known things wouldn’t work out with coach Tomey, I don’t know if I would have come here,” Williams said. “But I don’t look back on it as a bad decision. I just use it to keep moving forward.”
But like all his teammates who have endured the coaching staff drama of the past few seasons, Williams has learned to cope with the Wildcats’ ever-changing leadership.
“It’s kind of hard sometimes because you get used to one coach, then you have another coach and you’re not used to him,” Williams said. “The biggest thing for me was getting used to the idea of change.”
Now in his senior season, Williams is intent on gaining all the knowledge of the game that he can from the new staff of coaches.
“It’s just amazing to see the different styles (the coaches) have,” Williams said. “When you look at their r?©sum?©s, they’ve all turned programs around. Just being around them, you know they know so much about the game, and it makes things so much easier.”
Williams has the advantage of some impressive offensive numbers to build on this season. A year ago he tallied 36 receptions for 563 yards and two touchdowns in six starts, leading the Wildcats with a 15.6 yards per catch average.
“He has really stepped up his game, and he’s been more of a leader as a senior,” Offensive Coordinator Mike Canales said. “He has done everything we’ve asked him to do. Because of that, he’s going to see a lot of time on the field.”
The wide receiver has seen a lot of change in his career at Arizona, but surprisingly, Williams said Stoops’ staff hasn’t changed the offense too much from last season.
“There is really no change for me from the last half of last season,” Williams said. “To me the offense is very similar to last year. I’m just expecting a good year with coach (Mike) Canales’ offense and hopefully he can send me out with a bang.”
With any luck, that “bang” will launch him into the professional ranks.
“Hopefully I can continue to play,” Williams said. “I just want to be a student of the game. I love the game.”
If football isn’t in his future, the communications major said he would like to pursue a career in broadcasting, or use his family studies minor to work with children as a counselor.
But here and now, Williams’ focus is on the season at hand. Many things have changed for Williams since he came to Arizona, but he has learned just as many valuable lessons from his time here in Tucson. His life experiences remind him that nothing in life is guaranteed, especially on the football field.
Article first appeared in the Sept. 11 Arizona football game program